Hearts went into this tricky away fixture seeking their first league win of the season after four opening games which saw the club pick up just two points.
The goals which gave them a first league victory were about the only quality touches of football they displayed, but their willingness to fight to the end of this encounter was the key difference between this match and their four previous fixtures.
Laryea Kingston, deployed in an unfamiliar wide right midfield position by boss Anatoliy Korobochka, made his talent tell, scoring the first midway through the opening 45 minutes, then laying on the second for substitute Andrius Velicka in stoppage time.
As could have been predicted from their differing form, Motherwell began in more confident mood, winning the bulk of the 50-50 balls, with the Jambos a shade off the pace.
Hearts, however, created the first scoring chance when Robbie Neilson surged down the right and crossed for Calum Elliot. Having been on loan at Fir Park the previous season, Elliot was eager to make an impact on his return, but he directed his header straight at goalkeeper Graeme Smith.
Stephen Hughes was beginning to look sharp for the Steelmen and on a couple of occasions came close to creating a good opening. But, just as it seemed Motherwell had regained the ascendancy, Hearts took the lead. Picking up a knocked-down header in the middle of the park, Kingston surged towards the outside the box and unleashed a low drive which Smith could not get down to in time.
Within two minutes of the restart, Hearts had a strong penalty claim, with Elliot going down in the box, but referee Charlie Richmond waved away the appeals.
Having benefited from that let-off, Well forcefully resumed their search for an equaliser. Steven McGarry had a scoring opportunity at the end of a swift move which saw Marius Zaliukas’s lack of positional awareness exposed, but the striker did not make good contact.
The home side introduced Chris Porter for Keith Lasley in a bid to strengthen their grip on midfield, and Hearts replaced the tiring Christian Nade with their leading goalscorer from last season, Andrius Velicka.
As the game began to lose its shape, Jim Paterson became the first Motherwell player to be cautioned after following through on Neilson. The full-back briefly required treatment, and, before he was back on the pitch. Hearts had made their second change of the evening, with Ruben Palazuelos replacing Michael Stewart.
Five minutes from time Porter almost equalised, but Steve Banks got a hand to his low shot. Hearts had the last word, when, after being put through by Kingston, Velicka dinked the ball over Smith to secure the three points.
Hearts: Banks, Neilson, Goncalves, Tall, Stewart, Berra, Zaliukas, Kingston, Nade, Elliot, Ksanavicius.